Total Recall is a total blur: striking special effects, magnificent world-building and some notable performances, but its lack of narrative flow and persistent gun battles makes it feel like one big fight scene rather than a montage of action.
Colin Farrell plays Douglas Quaid, a hotalicious factory worker living in The Colony (contemporary Australia) with his equally saucy wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale). Quaid commutes daily to The United Federation of Britain via The Fall—a sophisticated transport system tunnelled through the Earth’s core. Quaid learns about Total Rekall—a program where fabricated memories are chemically inserted in your brain to enjoy as your own. Quaid signs up for the secret-double-crossing-spy mind trip only to learn that he really is a secret-double-crossing-spy who has had his memory wiped. His name isn’t really Quaid, Lori isn’t really his wife (but she’s still hot), Harry (Bokeem Woodbine) isn’t really his best mate, and now lots of people-shaped robots are trying to kill him. Quaid must find out who he really is and what’s going on, before, I don’t know…the end credits?
Farrell is exceptional as Quaid, and Beckinsale’s ruthless, svelte, kick-ass Lori makes Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman (The Dark Knight Rises) look like a strutting catwalk kitten afraid of smudging her eyeliner. The prerequisite nod to Total Recall’s 1990 predecessor is disappointingly lacklustre and multiple flaws in the film’s dependent science offset the gravitational pull. Unnecessary plot devices (such as Lori’s switch from an American to British accent) and ill-considered props (like the subway train decorated as a London Tube) just add to the pointlessness of the premise. All too soon you question the viability of the storyline, which hangs on the necessity of a visit to Rekall that only happened by chance.
Most frustrating is the constant path-crossing between Quaid and his accomplice Melina (Jessica Biel), and Lori and her bottomless barrel of shooters. The tedium plays out with the repetition of a Scooby-Doo episode set in Stephen King’s Overlook Hotel: here’s wifey…damn those pesky kids!
Undoubtedly, the success of Total Recall is in the rich, stylised futuristic world of towering cityscapes and endless transport networks. But, much like opening a comic book and peering through the pages to find an actual fantasy world moving within, the perspective doesn’t make much sense unless you know what’s going on, and in Total Recall, that doesn’t amount to a whole lot. Total Recall isn’t a total bore, but it is total bollocks.
Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bokeem Woodbine, Bil Nighy